What They Say
In the shadows of this modern age, ninjas fight to control an ancient technique strong enough to rule the world. This coveted secret dwells within Miharu, who only wants to use his power to end the suffering of dying Yoite – a former foe who might be the only friend Miharu really has.
As he struggles to understand the mystery buried in his soul, Miharu unites with Yoite to survive the escalating conflict. The ninja clans who hunt them are growing more desperate – but Miharu has finally found the motivation he needs to confront his destiny.
Contains episodes 14-26.
Nabari no Ou has a pretty expected design to the audio for this release as the English language adaptation gets the bump up to a 5.1 mix at 448kbps while the original Japanese stereo is at 192kbps. The show is like a lot of 5.1 mixes in that it does come across better, but not with a significant change to its overall layout, so there aren’t a ton of things coming out of the rear speakers. It’s a touch louder and clearer and placement is a bit more distinct, but there isn’t a huge difference between it and the original Japanese mix, which does a good job of working the forward soundstage. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2008, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show has quite a good look to it, especially with its softer almost sketch-like backgrounds, which is well balanced by the more fluid and vibrant character animation. There’s a lot of motion to the show at times that flows very well and the darker sections with the quiet atmospheric moments maintain their look very well. The scenes I wondered about the most would be the ones drenched in reds, which are infrequent at best, and they looked pretty good with only a bit of noise really noticeable within it. The show is done here with thirteen episodes across two discs in a seven/six split so there’s generally a decent amount of space for each volume. There are no significant extras impacting the bandwidth and space availability either.
Nabari no Ou is released in the familiar format for most of FUNimation’s shows that are in the half-season form with a slipcover that holds two thinpaks. The slipcover here is pretty nice and appropriately dark as the front features Miharu and Yoite looking serious in their street clothes while set against a fairly indistinct murky background. The back of the slipcover has a variation of the two of them with the background being a bit lighter and featuring one of the weapons for part of it. The summary is surprisingly slim on things but they do provide a good clear listing of the disc’s extras. There are a bunch of pictures from the show done almost in a jumble while the remainder is given over to some production information and a listing of how many episodes on how many discs. The actual technical grid is relegated to the bottom of the package.
Inside the case, we get a pair of really appealing clear thinpaks, though they are familiar to be certain. The first one has Miharu in his school uniform with Yoite in his usual attire with them being close together with some shades of red in the background from the slipcover. The second volume uses Yoite and Miharu again, this time with both of them smiling as much as I think they ever will with blue swirls showing behind them. The back covers are very appealing – more so than anything else on the release – with other members of the cast in very detailed designs set against a white background with a small splash of color. The episode numbers and titles are listed here as well which looks very good with the color choices used. Each of the covers has artwork on the opposite side which is done across both panels. The first volume has a group shot of some of the secondary characters against a white background while the second volume has a centerfold feeling to it with Miharu laying down reading scrolls. No show related inserts are included in this release.
The menus take a lot of their design cues and artwork from the front covers and slipcover as they have the varying colors, one with the darker green and the other with red, as well as using Miharu and Yoite to give it a bit more diversity. The layout is decent with the navigation strip along the left side that’s easy to use and very quick to respond. Submenus load quickly and the release makes language selection easy, though as usual they don’t read our players’ language presets and default to English with no subtitles.
Similar to the first set, FUNimation has separated the commentary track that’s on the second volume into an extras section whereas before they were mostly found in the individual episode selection section. The second disc also features the basics of the clean opening and closing sequences.
With the first half of Nabari no Ou, I found a series from JC Staff that really appealed to me visually and had a slightly off standard approach to its storyline. While the core concept was familiar, the execution of it was a bit more languid and it was taking its time to get there, but not in a bad way as it introduced the various families, their relationships and the core cast of characters started to bond. With the second season though, it feels as though it’s falling too much into this trap of not making much progress and then everything comes together in a far too quick climax, followed by far too much of an epilogue.
The premise for the second half is still essentially the same in that Miharu is staying very cloes with Yoite in order to achieve the Shinrabansho so he can grant Yoite his wish of being erased. The set opens by finishing out the story in the academy where several different factions ended up together before it shifts gears into trying to figure out where the Engentsurin is located so they can have the final piece of the puzzle. Though the actual item is a bit different from the previous ones, it still does come down to the same kind of hunt as the others but with the twist of where it actually is and what it’s unleashing will actually do. All of that is saved for the climax of the series, which comes around episode twenty-four or so when the Shinrabansho is predictably released.
And that part is, at least in my view, over within the blink of an eye and doesn’t merit much discussion. What does merit some discussion is the way the series did manage to change itself over time, going from what seemed like a straightforward slightly older shonen style group searching for necessary ingredients to almost something of a love story. Both Miharu and Yoite are the lead characters here and so much of the show ends up focusing on them. Even when other characters take the center stage, the majority of the time their focus is on either Miharu or Yoite and what they’ve either done or what they’re going through.
And it’s very appealing, as the bond that the two young men share is really given a lot of time to be explored as they’re either on the run searching for things or they’re recovering from various encounters. When they’re inevitably separated (which feels like it happens quite often), Miharu works hard to find him and get back to him which is really not in his usual personality of letting anything go. With Yoite quite literally dying in front of him, Miharu has really found something to latch onto himself and he’s been working so hard to achieve his goal so he can grant Yoite his wish that it’s become all-encompassing for him. It feels rare for a show to really have this kind of connection between young men like this and it stands out in a good way for the most part, though there are times when it comes across as too obsessive.
Nabari no Ou has a lot of good moments throughout this half of the season but it feels as though a lot of them get glossed over. Aizawa’s revelation about his past is really quite intriguing but it’s not going to get the time it deserves to be explored. Raiko and Raimei don’t spend much time together and Raimei is offscreen a lot of the time, but Raiko has some really good scenes as he deals with the internal conflicts he has with Hattori once he learns of his true goal of essentially erasing emotion from people. Tobari has some really good moments as well, especially as we see what happened ten years earlier and understand the nature of that conflict, but like the others it doesn’t resonate because so much of the focus is kept on Yoite and Miharu. The pairing is really good, and they do a wonderful job with the epilogue in making it connect and feel real, but it was at the sufferance of the rest of the cast.
While the first half of Nabari no Ou had me intrigued, it lost a good bit of its energy in this half as it seemed like it was spending its time on the usual back and forth, the angst over not being able to do anything for Yoite and the regular conflicts of everyone else in not doing what they wanted to when it comes to their friends. The exploration of the Shinrabansho started off in an interesting way, but the visualization of it inside Miharu felt off and its full-on appearance at the climax was almost laughable in some ways when all is said and done, particularly in how it ended. There are some really good elements in this series, but the ones that will stand the test of time for those that are fans of it will be the relationship side of it between Yoite and Miharu. It’s one of the best male friendships I think I’ve seen portrayed in a series from start to finish. This half of the series left me a bit less enthused about it as a whole and a little more ambivalent in general.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Commentary Track
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 24th, 2009
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamoprhic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.